- Men don't have breasts. How can they get breast cancer?
- Why do I not hear about breast cancer in men as much as I hear about breast cancer in women?
- Which men are more likely to get breast cancer?
- How serious is breast cancer in men?
- What are the symptoms of breast cancer in men?
- How is breast cancer diagnosed and treated in men?
Even though men do not have breasts like women, they do have a small amount of breast tissue. In fact the "breasts" of an adult man are similar to the breasts of a girl before puberty, and consist of a few ducts surrounded by breast and other tissue. In girls, this tissue grows and develops in response to female hormones, but in men -- who do not secrete the same amounts of these hormones -- this tissue does not develop.
However, because it is still breast tissue, men can develop breast cancer. In fact, men get the same types of breast cancers that women do, although cancers involving the milk producing and storing regions of the breast are very rare.
Breast cancer in men is a very rare disease. This is possibly due to their smaller amount of breast tissue and the fact that men produce smaller amounts of hormones like estrogen that are known to affect breast cancers in women.
In fact, only about 1 in 100 breast cancers affect men and only about 10 men in a million will develop breast cancer.
It is very rare for a man under age 35 to get breast cancer, but the likelihood of developing the disease increases with age. Beyond that, African-American men appear to be at greater risk than white men. In fact, in some places in Africa breast cancer in men is much more common. Also, college-educated professionals appear to have a higher risk than the general male population.
The clearest risk for developing breast cancer seems to be in men who have had an abnormal enlargement of their breasts (called gynecomastia) in response to drug or hormone treatments, or even some infections and poisons. Individuals with a rare genetic disease called Klinefelter's syndrome, who often have gynecomastia as part of the syndrome, are especially prone to develop breast cancer.
Doctors used to think that breast cancer in men was a more severe disease than it was in women, but it now seems that for comparably advanced breast cancers, men and women have similar outcomes.
The major problem is that breast cancer in men is often diagnosed later than breast cancer in women. This may be because men are less likely to be suspicious of an abnormality in that area. In addition, their small amount of breast tissue is harder to feel -- making it more difficult to catch these cancers early, and allowing tumors to spread more quickly to the surrounding tissues.
Symptoms are very similar to those in women. Most male breast cancers are diagnosed when a man discovers a lump on his chest. However, unlike women, men tend to go to the doctor with more severe symptoms that often include bleeding from the nipple and abnormalities in the skin above the cancer. The cancer has already spread to the lymph nodes in a large number of these men.
The same techniques -- physical exams, mammograms, and biopsies (examining small samples of the tissue under a microscope) -- that are used to diagnose breast cancer in women are also used in men.
The same four treatments that are used in treating breast cancer in women -- surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, and hormones -- are also used to treat the disease in men. The one major difference is that men with breast cancer respond much better to hormone treatments than women do. As discussed in the section on breast cancer in women, many breast cancers have hormone receptors, that is, they have specific sites on the cancer cells where specific hormones like estrogen can act.
Men are much more likely to have these receptors than women, making hormonal treatment more likely to be effective.
Reviewed by the doctors at The Cleveland Clinic Taussig Cancer Center.
Edited by Charlotte E. Grayson, MD, WebMD, February 2004.
WebMD Medical Reference
Health Solutions From Our Sponsors
Top Male Breast Cancer Related Articles
AlcoholismAlcoholism is a disease that includes alcohol craving and continued drinking despite repeated alcohol-related problems, such as losing a job or getting into trouble with the law. It can cause myriad health problems, including cirrhosis of the liver, birth defects, heart disease, stroke, psychological problems, and dementia. Counseling and a few medications can be effective for alcoholism treatment.
Breast cancer is an invasive tumor that develops in the mammary gland. Breast cancer is detected via mammograms, breast self-examination (BSE), biopsy, and specialized testing on breast cancer tissue. Treatment of breast cancer may involve surgery, radiation, hormone therapy, chemotherapy, and targeted therapy. Breast cancer risk may be lowered by managing controllable risk factors.
Breast Cancer SlidesLearn about breast cancer causes, symptoms, tests, recovery, and prevention. Discover the types of treatments such as surgery and drug therapies as well as the survival rate for breast cancer.
Breast Cancer QuizThis Breast Cancer Quiz features signs, symptoms, facts, causes, common forms, terms, risk factors, statistics, and more. Increase your awareness of breast cancer now!
Cancer Risk FactorsThough it's difficult to say why some people develop cancer while others don't, research shows that certain risk factors increase a person's odds of developing cancer. These risk factors include growing older, family history of cancer, diet, alcohol and tobacco use, and exposure to sunlight, ionizing radiation, certain chemicals, and some viruses and bacteria.
Screening Tests for CancerCancer detection are methods used to find cancer in persons who may or may not have symptoms. Symptoms of cancer are abnormal sensations or conditions that persons can notice that are a result of the cancer. It is important to your doctor for regular checkups and not wait for problems to occur.
Top Cancer-Fighting FoodsExperts have praised certain foods for their ability to reduce cancer risks. Learn which foods and eating strategies may help reduce your risk of developing cancer.
CT Scan (Computerized Tomography)A CT scan is an X-ray procedure that combines many X-ray images with the aid of a computer to generate cross-sectional and three-dimensional images of internal organs and structures of the body. A CT scan is a low-risk procedure. Contrast material may be injected into a vein or the spinal fluid to enhance the scan.
Chest X-RayChest X-Ray is a type of X-Ray commonly used to detect abnormalities in the lungs. A chest X-ray can also detect some abnormalities in the heart, aorta, and the bones of the thoracic area. A chest X-ray can be used to define abnormalities of the lungs such as excessive fluid (fluid overload or pulmonary edema), fluid around the lung (pleural effusion), pneumonia, bronchitis, asthma, cysts, and cancers. Normal chest X-ray shows normal size and shape of the chest wall and the main structures in the chest
Cirrhosis (Liver)Cirrhosis of the liver refers to a disease in which normal liver cells are replaced by scar tissue caused by alcohol and viral hepatitis B and C. This disease leads to abnormalities in the liver's ability to handle toxins and blood flow, causing internal bleeding, kidney failure, mental confusion, coma, body fluid accumulation, and frequent infections.
Symptoms include yellowing of the skin (jaundice), itching, and fatigue.
The prognosis is good for some people with cirrhosis of the liver, and the survival can be up to 12 years; however the life expectancy is about 6 months to 2 years for people with severe cirrhosis with major complications.
MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging Scan)MRI (or magnetic resonance imaging) scan is a radiology technique which uses magnetism, radio waves, and a computer to produce images of body structures. MRI scanning is painless and does not involve X-ray radiation. Patients with heart pacemakers, metal implants, or metal chips or clips in or around the eyes cannot be scanned with MRI because of the effect of the magnet.
ObesityObesity is the state of being well above one's normal weight. A person has traditionally been considered to be obese if they are more than 20% over their ideal weight. That ideal weight must take into account the person's height, age, sex, and build.
Seniors Sex ProblemsIt's never too late to improve your sex life. Learn how to overcome common health conditions affecting those over 50 such as heart disease, diabetes, and arthritis in order to have a healthy sex life.
Questions To Ask Before SurgerySurgery is the branch of medicine that employs operations in the treatment of disease or injury. Prior to surgery you might consider asking your surgeon questions about the operation (procedure).
Weird Body QuirksIce cream brain freeze, hiccups, charley horses, vertigo--what's behind these weird body quirks anyway? Our experts explain several odd body behaviors.